Much of the decline in per capita consumption can be traced to 3 causes: the closure of aluminum smelters (mentioned yesterday), rising and unstable power prices, and the shift in new construction away from electric heating and towards natural gas. And these shifts have been prompted not by conscious efforts to save energy, but by volatile and rising electricity prices.

The electricity surplus could keep prices stable and relatively low over the next several years—the very opposite of the conditions that led to decreased consumption over the past decade. So, potentially, by undermining the price signal that has encouraged conservation, the power surplus may well contain the seeds of its own undoing.